What is the keto diet?
The keto diet is a regimen with low carbohydrate, high-fat guidelines. By reducing your carbohydrate intake, your body switches to a ketosis metabolic state. Normally, on a higher carb diet, your body utilizes glucose or sugar sources first as it’s the main source of energy. The idea with keto is that by limiting your glucose or sugar intake through carbohydrates, your body will eventually run out of those stores after a few days and will switch to utilizing fat stores for energy. To put it simply, ketosis means that your body uses fat rather than carbs for its primary energy source and thus metabolizes that fat. A typical keto diet consists of mostly fats (70-75%), both saturated and unsaturated. Protein makes up approximately 20-30% of your daily caloric intake. Carbs are usually limited to less than 50grams/day. If you are following a 2000 cal/day meal plan, 50 grams of carbs is roughly 10% of your total caloric intake.
Is Keto Good for Diabetics?
The keto diet has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and weight loss, which is especially important for people with type 2 diabetes. In one study, type 2 diabetics who followed the keto diet for 1 year demonstrated weight loss, required fewer diabetes medications, and reduced their A1c. (A1c is a measure of your 3-month average blood sugar, and is a common measure for diabetes control.)
Type 2 diabetics have some level of insulin resistance in their bodies, meaning that they produce insulin but have a hard time properly utilizing it. Insulin is released into the bloodstream when you ingest carbohydrates. Therefore, by inducing ketosis through the keto diet by limiting carbohydrate intake, your body can potentially better manage your blood sugar levels because you won’t need to make as much insulin!
One study compared the keto diet to a calorie-restricted, moderate carbohydrate, low-fat diet, in individuals who were overweight or obese and had type 2 diabetes or were pre-diabetic. They found that, after one year, the keto diet group lost, on average, 18 pounds compared to 4 pounds in the moderate carb, low-fat group. The keto group also had better A1c scores and were more likely to need fewer medications or were even able to discontinue the use of their diabetes medications altogether.
There is little research overall on the keto diet and its effects on type 1 diabetics. One study demonstrated that the keto diet did help type 1 diabetics lower their A1C. In a larger survey of 273 people with type 1 diabetes who were on a very restricted carbohydrate diet, researchers found that these individuals reported excellent blood sugar management, low adverse events (such as hypoglycemia), and had high satisfaction levels.
Should I try the keto diet?
For some diabetics, it can be a great way to lose weight, reduce medication needs, and improve blood sugar control, but it is not for everybody. Before making any dietary changes, consult with your doctor!
Kelly Wild (@kellywild8) is a licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy. She also is a National level Olympic Weightlifter and former 3 time CrossFit Games athlete. Kelly also played Division I ice hockey at Ohio State University. Kelly believes that health care should be proactive, not reactive. This mantra has inspired Kelly to publish a number of online fitness protocols at Californiastrength.com that anyone can use to reduce injury risk and improve strength in order to continue to pursue all of your athletic and fitness goals!